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  Creating a Writer's Web-Site: Is it REALLY That Easy?
by Lee Masterson

Creating a website to display your work on these days is relatively easy. It requires a minimal knowledge of HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) or even any real knowledge of computer coding or programming. In fact, several free servers are offering ready-made templates for the beginning web-master to choose from. Simply point and click, select some colors, type a greeting, and your web-page is ready to show the world.

The startup fees are also very low. Your own domain name (e.g. www.yourname.com) can be registered for as little as $20.00 a year with the right domain registration service. Unfortunately, if you don't choose to register your own domain name, it might be required that you use an unwieldy URL, which is often hard for your visitors to remember. Most free servers will allow you to create your domain name with them at no cost if you use their name in the URL (e.g. www.yourname.freeservers.com). But others make life even harder on your fledgling site - (e.g. http://www.geocities.com/yourname/homepage.html)

Still, the benefits of creating a start-up page on a free-server hosting company are many. Fiction Factor began with a free host (Bigstep.com, which is no longer a free service). It taught us many things about our growing e-zine.

Here are some of the good points of beginning with a free-server:

  • being able to work through any bugs in the coding or placement of content
  • ability to monitor popularity of sections or pages
  • increase readership before jumping into a high-cost/no-return venture
  • test-drive any affiliate programs/link-swap agreements
  • increase your knowledge of websites and search engines
  • monitor what works for your visitors and what doesn't
  • monitor which ads (if any) work well, and which are ignored
  • upload directly from your WYSIWYG web-page editor.

To be fair, here are some not-so-good points of beginning with a free-server:

  • often required to display large banners, or even annoying pop-up ads
  • long, unwieldy URL
  • often no advanced options available (java-scripting, customized meta-tags etc)
  • time-consuming to update
  • limited options for design, if using templates
  • not all free-hosts support uploading of HTML documents
  • difficult to set up an e-commerce portal, if you plan to sell books or products
  • not all search engines will accept entries from sites with free-hosts (e.g. Yahoo)
  • some free hosts compromise writer's copyrights. Read all small print carefully.

And, of course, the benefits of dealing with a paid web-host, with your own domain name:

  • professional and easily memorable URL
  • usually a larger web-space capacity
  • more professional options available (e.g. e-commerce, chat rooms, java-scripting capacity)
  • freedom of design and content
  • all copyrights remain with site owner
  • easy acceptance by all search engines
  • more professional image
  • proves to visitors that you are determined to stay put
  • customizable meta-tags (the information search-engines read to work out placement)
  • advanced hosting options available
  • if running a business through your site, most costs are tax deductible

But simply creating a page and uploading it onto the Internet is not the end of the process. Displaying your work, or your product, on a website will not bring visitors to your site in droves. Nor will it always entice a prospective buyer to part with their hard earned cash for your product.

You need to find a way to let people know that it exists, and promoting your site to the world is a little more involved than the initial setup.

To find out more about website promotion, check through our
Promoting and Marketing section.

On top of the initial marketing, what happens if people DO find your site, and then leave it almost immediately, without staying to explore what is within? How do you keep them there long enough to inquire about your product or service?

The content on your site is infinitely more important than the design, or search engine placement, or how many visitors you can bring in. Offer your visitors something worth their time, and you will find many of them returning for more.

Offer free information, or excellent resources, or perhaps even articles on the same topic as the rest of your site. Whatever content you choose to display, be sure that it consists of high quality and blatant professionalism.

There is nothing worse that happening across a website which promises exactly the information you have been searching for, only to open the page onto a hodge-podge of crazy banners, clashing colors and flashing graphics. Staring at a computer screen for any length of time is hard enough on the eyes without resorting to making your readers reach for their sun-glasses to cut the glare.

Most web-masters (myself included) learn from persistent trial and error. Learn to monitor your site, and the individual pages within. Know who your competitors are, and keep a close eye on what makes them so popular. Understand what your visitors want, and then deliver more than they expect. Give them something of interest to tell their friends or chat-groups about.

Most of all, though, make it easy for them to want to return for more.

Copyright 2002 Lee Masterson. All rights reserved.

(This article is an excerpt from Lee's book "
Create and Promote a Best-Selling Ebook".)

Lee Masterson is a freelance writer from South Australia and is the Editor and Publisher of Fiction Factor - an online magazine for fiction writers, bringing you articles on the craft and business of writing, free ebook downloads, author interviews and heaps of writer's resources. In what little spare time she has, Lee writes science fiction novels. She is also the author of the book "Create and Promote a Best-Selling Ebook".

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